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OP-ED: Harnessing Africa’s Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth, by Collins Okonkwo

Collins Okonkwo
Collins Okonkwo at the 2017 AU Summit on Harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend through investment in youth

 

In accelerating the implementation of these commitments, young people need to engage the leadership of the African Union commission (AUC), national governments, and policymaking institutions on how to harness the demographic dividend, which is crucial for the attainment of both the Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

 

Africa’s youth account for more than 60℅ of the continent’s population. This is a huge resource, if adequately harnessed by ensuring youth participation, representation and observance of human rights, amongst others, on the continent.

However, the challenge remains the limited participation of this huge resource in formal political processes and failure of Africa’s youth to enjoy their rights as citizens of the continent. This challenge often leads to disenfranchisement and frustration which if not sufficiently addressed threatens social cohesion, peace and security of the continent.

Harnessing the continent’s demographic dividend requires investments that will not only ensure participatory, representative and inclusive political processes but also responsive state institutions. Young people must therefore be involved in policy formulation and implementation at local, national and regional levels, Africa needs to also tap into the huge creative potentials of its vast youth population.

For if young people are able to effectively participate in executive and legislative governance right from the grassroots as well as in running the affairs of political parties this will significantly accelerate the attainment of the goals of  both the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN’s Agenda 2030, respectively.

In laying the foundation for harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend and propelling transformative development of AU member states, investments must be made in continuously opening up the political space, upholding rights, and ensuring participatory governance by empowering African youth.

In accelerating the implementation of these commitments, young people need to engage the leadership of the African Union commission (AUC), national governments, and policymaking institutions on how to harness the demographic dividend, which is crucial for the attainment of both the Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In achieving this, I believe a plan of action will require the following strategic engagement;

–  Ensuring a continent-wide ratification, domestication and full implementation of all youth-focused AU instruments including the African Youth Charter (AYC) and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) by all member states of the African Union.

–  Eliminating barriers to active participation of youth in nation building including in political spaces by putting in place mechanism to facilitate their meaningful participation in political parties, legislature, judiciary, cabinets, and civil service structure of member states.

– Removing all discriminatory laws and limitation to full participation of young people in electoral processes through inclusive electoral laws that foster effective diversity management. #NotToYoungToRun

– Strengthening independent youth networks and organizations including the establishment of independent youth commission’s at national and sub-regional levels to champion youth activities.

– Strengthening AU’s institutional structure and delivery capacity for youth empowerment and development by the elevation of AU’s youth division to a directorate.

– Appointing an AU special envoy on youth to lead advocacy and champion the prioritization of youth issues within continental and other decision making spaces.

– Ensuring the implementation of various decisions of AU Assembly of Heads of States on youth leadership and participation in decision making processes; in this vein, efforts must be put in place to establish an annual African youth parliament and a model African Union assembly at the continental level.

In order to achieve this, and realize the Africa we want, youth must continue to unite, organize and engage through active participation, getting involved, taking decisions and getting results.

Remember “No Future For Us Without Us”

Viva All Youth Revolutionaries!!!!!

Collins Okonkwo is Head/Policy Expert and Advisor African Youth Union Commission (AYUC) and 2nd Assembly member of the Nigerian Youth Parliament

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect African Newspage’s editorial policy.

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